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The Extent of Satanism Among Adolescents

By Arnold Markowitz, LCSW


There is a great deal of conflict over the question of the threat that Satanism poses for our society. For some people, experts as well as the lay public, the entire issue is generated by over blown hysteria. Others see a serious threat that arises from generational practitioners who secretly practice animal and human sacrifices and pass along their clandestine rituals from one generation to another. A few spectacular and horrific cases have emerged that certainly show how debased people can be. For example, the ritualized sacrifices of 13 young men by a drug smuggling ring in Malamores, Mexico gives limited creditability to the claim that human sacrifice is practiced by some very disturbed people who practice Satanism. While this event is shocking, it stands as the only solid confirmation of Satanic human sacrifice by adult believers in the devil. There is little, or any, confirmed evidence that a well organized network of Satanists exists. However, there is ample evidence that self styled grassroots groups of "dabblers," mostly adolescents, are proliferating around the country.

Many of our youth are frustrated, suffer from a sense of personal anomie and feel a lack of purpose in their lives. Feeling hopeless and powerless they return to magical thinking, mystification and idealization of the counter culture to provide their lives with meaning. Unfortunately, many choose symbols of anger and hate such as the skinheads and Satanism. Since the mid 1980’s there has been a rapid increase in the number and seriousness of crimes related to Satanic Ritual. There are dozens, even hundreds of incidents of graffiti and desecration of churches and cemeteries in almost every state. There have been grave robbings in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Louisiana—completed suicides by teenagers in New York City (one on high school grounds), Westchester, New York, Connecticut, Vermont and Florida as well as dozens of suicide attempts related to the practice of Satanic rituals. Seventeen and eighteen year olds have been convicted of homicide that occurred during the practice of Satanic rites in Northport, New York, Minnesota, and New Mexico. A fourteen year old boy slashed his mother to death, set the house on fire, and cut his own throat in New Jersey following his involvement in Satanic readings and rituals.

The Cult Hotline and Clinic receives more calls about Satanism than any other single cult group. Many calls come from school officials, social workers and counselors, police, and psychiatric hospitals.

Teenagers attracted to Satanism tend to be 13-19 years old, white, working and middle class youth who are mostly showing a transient interest. Those more intensely involved or older participants tend to be more seriously troubled and psychologically disturbed. Many seem to have low self-esteem, are aggressive, and have experienced failures in their personal lives and turn to the occult to explain their failures or to exercise some control over their misery. Satanists often exhibit the following characteristics and symptoms:

  • poor academic performance, frequently learning disabled
  • drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • oppositional, defiant, acting out behaviors
  • suicidal ideation, suicide attempts
  • homicidal behaviors
  • self mutilation, self cutting, blood letting rituals
  • listen to heavy metal music particularly with a glorification of suicide, death, and murder
  • some have attention deficit disorders, perceptual, organizational, and judgment difficulty
  • families are disengaged, frequent chemical abuse

Educators need to be aware of their students interest in Satanism with an appropriate sense of balance. Many adolescents are only curious and not truly serious about their interest but for others their participation should be viewed as a symptom of their distress in life.

Where Satanism exists adult educators can question the interest and ask about the child’s beliefs and participation in the rituals. Be a good listener and probe with an innocuous question only when the student stops talking. Find a way to inform the parents in a non-provocative fashion. Parents can be helpful if they can establish a rapport with their child—no easy feat in these cases. Parents as well as other adults can express their discomfort or objections to the practices and negative messages Satanism expesses. These destructive messages, as well as the music, resonate with what the youngster is feeling.

The proliferation of Satanism, fed by the "entertainment" industry that panders to adolescents appears to be a growing phenomenon. While some people are understandably upset on religious grounds it needs to be viewed as a social and individual symptom of adolescent alienation. Disenfranchised youth seek various ways to feel powerful and the message of power through Satanism is attractive to these aimless youth. Many are seriously disturbed and need professional assistance while others can be reclaimed with a personal effort to help them connect socially, culturally and emotionally.